Saturday, February 26, 2011

Strategies for improving technology skills for teachers

After just finishing off my four last essays for my post grad course, one of which was about ICT and teacher PD, I got to thinking how can teachers best manager their own personal IT professional development needs. We all know that we are all teachers of literacy and numeracy and now increasingly we are all teachers of ICT.
This can be daunting for some teachers as its already a very busy profession. So how best to go about improving technology skill and bringing it into your teaching.
There are some very simple ideas that can gradually be added to your weekly and yearly schedule.
1) Social networking. OK this seems a bit drastic - sites such as Facebook many people like to keep just amongst their friends, but add in a couple of really informative groups or people to your network and while you spend a bit of time browsing your friends news and updating yourself, you might stumble across something interesting to follow up. A couple of good people/groups to follow on Facebook are:
Jeff Utrecht; Free technology for teachers;ISTE and Education World.
There are lots of others out there.
2) Join Twitter. You might feel a bit awkward, but honestly its been my best professional development tool for some time now. Join up - that takes about 60 seconds and find some people to follow. At first you might feel a bit self conscious about talking about yourself, but 140 characters isn't too burdensome and you can limit your own tweeting to one tweet every few days or once a week to start. If technology is the thing you want to improve, link up with Ed tech specialists, other teachers are also talking about all sorts of things. They are so generous with their ideas and will link you out to lots of amazing things on the web that they have tried or are thinking about.
Something new I just gleaned from Twitter is something called Read it Later. Sign up to this site and you can add a bookmarklet to your browser. Just tag something you think might be interesting and 'read it later' when you have time. Perhaps make half an hour a week set aside to trawl through these and you'll be surprised at what you find.
3) Add sites like Twitter, Facebook and Read it Later to your iphone or Android phone and when you are stuck at a bus stop, waiting for your friend at a cafe or have 5 minutes and dont want to start up the computer, you can do a little IT PD!
4) At the beginning of each school year and term, we set our students some personal and academic goals - we should probably do the same for ourselves. Its really satisfying to select a number of things you'd like to achieve in a year and tick them off as you go through.
Keep it simple to start you could:
- commit to developing skills in one new software program
- create one task per UOI that emmerses some simple computer use eg graphing, looking up, brainstorming.
- choose one IT PD per year to attend and share with your colleagues
- create one interactive whiteboard lesson per unit of inquiry through the year.
- book in a session with the ICT integrator to embed some higher end skills into your lessons, make sure that session has some computer 'play time' for you, its the best way to learn.
- At grade meetings spend 5 minutes sharing some new ICT sites you've come across that might be helpful to everyone.

Once you've started with these simple steps, you might begin a photo-blog ( 365 project is an excellent vehicle to force you online each day to upload an image) or a reflective blog of your own. It doesn't even need to be about school stuff - perhaps you have a passion about something else that can be the catalyst for sharing in the online world.

Before you know it you'll be developing some good skills, feel confident about using IT in your lessons and the kids will love it!

Best of all, doing these few easy things will assist with any teachers attempting to meet the ICT skills standards when going for accreditation.
Good luck and importantly don't forget to share what you learn with your colleagues.

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